1. Reward the Right Attitude
Behind every behavior there’s an attitude. If you’re consistently reward the right behavior, but the wrong attitude you’ll soon find that you have plenty of extra ‘tude on your hands. At Chill Out Dog Training we like to look for dogs to be in a more patient, open, sweet, soft and tuned-in mindset before dishing out a reward. Since this is a new concept for most dogs, they usually aren’t giving us all these things right out of the gate, we look for progress rather than perfection to get the ball rolling.
2. Treats Are a Give AND Take
Treats can be given AND taken away: When treat-training we normally focus getting our timing right for the reward, so that the dog associates its most recent change in behavior (and attitude) with getting a treat. While providing real-time feedback for “good moves” is important, so is real-time feedback for “wrong moves”; we provide this additional, valuable, information by freezing our treat hand (assuming they’re already focused on it), and then pulling it away a few inches. Usually this is done when a dog forgets its patience and over-extends, or flat out lunges, for the treat they’re working for.
3. Break It Down
All trained behaviors can be broken down into component stages, and those component stages are more easily taught than the whole end-behavior. So, if your dog is struggling with a skill, begin to reward them for anything that could be a part of that skill to gain some momentum and keep their engagement. Then slowly raise the bar until you’re at the end-behavior you had in mind. For example, if a dog struggles to lie down, we would first get it to track the treat we keep in our hands, then ask it to sit, then get its nose to follow the treat down towards the ground. If the dog follows the lure down towards the ground at all, then it would earn it the treat. Then we just rinse and repeat, asking for a little bit more each time, until the dog is lying on the ground.
If you can’t seem to gain momentum, stop making progress or just have too many naughty behaviors getting in the way, then it may be time to bring in some professional help. A good trainer can help you identify what challenges are keeping your dog from reaching its potential.